It has become evident that one of the largest issues in the technological age we live in is the concept of privacy and cyber-security. To put it simply, nobody wants to get hacked. Everyone who uses a computer regularly has things on their computer that they would rather keep private.
However, when looking into cyber-security it is easy to become lost among intimidating terms such as “vpn” or “encryption”. After my week at the Dartmouth GenCyber security program as well as some personal research I’ve done on the topic, I’ve come up with a few quick things you can do to ensure that both your computer and information stay safe.
When clicking a link in an email or online, hover over the link first to ensure the address it goes to is the same as the url you are trying to visit. They may not always match which can send you to dangerous websites or even download viruses or malware.
Whenever you are going onto a website where you may enter information, make sure the url is legitimate. It is easy for scammers to copy the layout of a bank’s website to steal your information, but the url of the website will always be different than the real counterpart. For example the real https://www.chase.com/ may look like http://www.chaase.com/ and could steal your information.
Beware of “phishing” scams and stay safe by avoiding replying to, or even opening unknown or unexpected emails. By opening sketchy looking emails, even those coming from friends, your email can get hijacked, causing you to automatically send more of these emails to some of your friends. Within the email it may ask for your personal information while impersonating reputable organizations like a bank or other company. Once these scammers have your information they can attempt to impersonate you as well.
When installing a downloaded program always use the “custom installation” rather than the “regular” or “quick” version. Many programs, even ones coming from well respected companies like Google or Microsoft, will install unwanted programs if you don’t pay attention to what boxes you are checking during installation. These unwanted programs are often insecure and may even be carrying dangerous malware or viruses.
Stay safe from “social engineering hackers” by contacting your internet service provider and telling them not to give anyone access to your account without a password that you provide. It is pretty common for someone to exploit the human weaknesses in a security system by using social engineering. Someone may for example impersonate your nonexistent spouse or son and ask customer service for access into your account, and from there do even more damage through traditional hacking. By using a password that you create, you can stay safe from this type of hacking.
Consider encrypting important data stored on your computer that you wouldn’t want a hacker to have access to. Encryption encodes your data so it becomes unreadable and inaccessible without a special key to convert it back to its original form. Many government agencies even use encryption to secure their data because of its proven effectiveness. By using a free cross-platform program such as TrueCrypt or VeraCrypt, you can easily encrypt whatever data you want so that it will require a password to open and be more secure against hackers.
Perhaps the best way of protecting your data is to look into VPNs, especially if you use public networks regularly, like those offered at coffee shops or hotels. A VPN, or virtual private network, is a paid service that operates by routing what you do on the internet through another middleman server.
Many VPNs also offer encryption, which is a great way to ensure that your internet traffic is not open to prying eyes. VPNs offer lots of security by ensuring that your internet traffic is not traced back to the device you are using, meaning that hackers cannot link your internet traffic back to your device which may put said device at risk.
By using these simple suggestions and being careful, you can ensure that both your data and computer stay safe on the internet as well as in your own home.